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Sterling Sub Sinks Saints: Liverpool 3, Southampton 0

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Liverpool beat Southampton, move into second place.

Mike Hewitt

Liverpool soared after Raheem Sterling came on for Philippe Coutinho in the 57th minute, transforming a wobbly 1-0 lead into a 3-0 victory. Brendan Rodgers decided to start Joe Allen over Sterling, and although in hindsight Coutinho should have been the one sacrificed from the starting lineup, Rodgers deserves credit for correcting his mistake midway through the match.

They held a 1-0 lead going into the half, but Liverpool were clearly the lesser team over the opening 45 minutes. One big chance did present itself from an early counter attack, but Daniel Sturridge could not pick out Suarez after he was set free down the right flank by Allen. After that chance, it was Southampton who took control, finding pockets of space all over the midfield. Steven Gerrard struggled with his positioning, Coutinho struggled with pretty much everything, and while Allen and Jordan Henderson were lively, they could not stem the flow of Southampton's forward bursts.

Liverpool lacked natural width in the first half without Sterling, and were easily broken down when Southampton drew Liverpool midfielders out to the wings before cutting the ball back to runners in the middle of the pitch. Consequently, the Saints were able to maintain control for extended spells in the first half and create a few high quality chances.

In the midst of such a spell, it was Liverpool who surprisingly took the lead. A through ball looked to be cut out by Southampton's back line, yet the ever hungry Luis Suarez continued his forward run. Somehow the ball bounced straight off a Southampton defender and into the path of the well placed Uruguayan who curled a difficult shot around Artur Boruc.

The Saints didn't stop terrorizing Liverpool's back four after falling behind. In the 32nd minute, Rickie Lambert chested a cross into path of Adam Lallana who hit the post dead on with his ensuing shot. If that wasn't enough of a wake up call for the Reds, in the 43rd minute Lambert allowed a grounded cross from Luke Shaw to pass through his legs and onto Jay Rodriguez who's effort was somehow stopped by an unbalanced Simon Mignolet.

The first half was, outside of Suarez's goal, a game of survival. While highly placed teams like Liverpool don't like to be on the back foot, it's vital for Liverpool to survive difficult stretches while Rodgers figures out how to correct tactical issues. After getting to halftime with the lead, the match became a more familiar type of game for Liverpool - quick, exciting, and eventually ruthless.

The back line played with more unity and tightness after the break, frustrating Southampton by shutting down much of the previously available space. Rodgers didn't alter much in terms of formation or tactics, but the move he did make in bringing on Sterling immediately payed dividends.

Only a minute after coming on, Sterling scored to take Liverpool ahead 2-0. It was a wonderful team goal, with Gerrard playing the initial through ball to Suarez who cut it back for Sterling to shoot. Interestingly, Suarez is the only player to have ever assisted a Sterling goal in the league, setting up seven out of Sterling's eight goals, with the other one the product of a rebound.

Sterling played brilliantly after scoring, and Liverpool repeatedly went for a third goal to kill off the game. Suarez unselfishly passed to Sturridge in the 71st minute rather than taking on a close range shot from near the byline, and while the ball was cut out, the intent to get his partner on the scoresheet was admirable. Instead of switching to a defensive mindset, Liverpool mounted increasing pressure on Southampton's goal, as a Gerrard long range missile was tipped wide.

Southampton were unable to create meaningful opportunities to get back into the game, and Liverpool finally got their third deep into extra time. Suarez cleverly earned a penalty after some nifty dribbling, and Gerrard scored yet another goal from the spot to pad the goal differential for the Reds.

Playing away against a team that had beaten them twice in a row, Liverpool were good enough to earn their 3-0 win. This was never going to be a walk in the park, and Liverpool managed to overcome the difficult portions of the game to obtain eventual control in the second half. Rodgers managed the game well and the players now have two weeks to rest before they visit United.

Liverpool Southampton
Possession 43% 57%
Pass Success 75% 83%
Aerial Success 55% 45%
Shots (On Target) 12(5) 13(2)
Fouls 6 10
Corners 6 3

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

-Agger passed it well out of the back today to start some nice attacking moves.

-Suarez finally ended his "drought" although in reality he's been anything but dry in his performances over the past month. In fact, he now leads the league in assists.

-I thought Joe Allen justified his manager's faith with a positive performance.

-Ten more games. This is crazy.

For the first time here at the Anfield Asylum, I thought we should include a "roll call" from our game thread (the game threads by the way have been outstanding this year):

# Commenter # Comments
1 loyal2reds 81
2 Patrick Elder 72
3 Matt A 49
4 ArunK 24
5 BamaRed13 2
6 dallasmadness 1